In recent years, Portugal has seen an influx of expats looking to take advantage of programs like Portugal’s Golden Visa and make the country their new home. The country has become an ideal destination among Americans in particular, looking for a slower pace of life and a more affordable cost of living. In this article, we’ll compare the cost of living in Portugal vs USA, looking at groceries, transportation, schooling, and more.
Relocating to a new country is never an easy choice to make. There are a lot of adjustments to make when building your life in a new country, but this can be made easier when the country offers a warm climate, a rich culture, picturesque landscapes, and stunning beaches. These aspects are part of what makes Portugal such a welcoming and ideal choice for so many expats.
Cost of Living in Portugal vs USA: What to Expect
The cost of living is one of the most important factors to consider when relocating to a new country. Fortunately, the cost of living in Portugal is more affordable than in many other countries in Western Europe. It is also one of the few countries in the world where expats consistently highly rate the quality of life.
Doing thorough research can give you an idea of what to expect, as well as help you plan and budget accurately for your move. Our residence and citizenship division, Global Citizen Solutions, has a pioneering Quality of Life Index that ranks countries based on the cost of living, Sustainable Development Goals, levels of freedom, happiness levels, migrant acceptance, and environmental performance. Portugal is ranked 12th on the Index, while the United States of America (USA) is ranked 23rd.
In comparing the cost of living between Portugal and the USA, Numbeo found that the consumer prices (including rent) in Portugal are 74.9 percent lower than in the USA. Rent prices in Portugal are 112.3 percent lower, restaurant prices are 78.7 percent lower, and grocery prices are 96.6 percent lower than in the USA. As you can see, the general cost of living in Portugal is significantly more affordable than in the USA.
Cost of living in Portugal vs USA: Capital city comparison
A good way to get a more detailed idea of the cost of living in Portugal and the USA, let’s compare their respective capital cities: Lisbon and Washington, DC.
The price per square meter for an apartment in the city center is €5,686.70 in Lisbon and €7,409.18 in Washington, DC
Consumer prices in Lisbon, including rent, are 43.8 percent lower than in Washington, DC
Rental prices are 52.3 percent lower in Lisbon than in Washington, DC
Grocery prices are 48.6 percent lower in Lisbon than in Washington, DC
Restaurant prices are 39.3 percent lower in Lisbon than in Washington, DC
Living Expenses in Portugal vs USA
As we have established, living expenses in Portugal are generally considerably lower than in the USA. Let’s have a look at some more specific examples.
Groceries are pretty affordable in Portugal, particularly when you buy local goods rather than imported products. Anything grown or caught in Portugal, such as fruit, vegetables, seafood, and meat, is guaranteed to be cheap.
The table below outlines the cost of some basic items in Portugal compared to the USA.
Loaf of fresh white bread
1kg chicken fillets
1kg beef round
1kg local cheese
0.5L bottle domestic beer
Bottle mid-range wine
As you can see from the table, alcohol is much cheaper in Portugal than in the USA. A bottle of wine will set you back €4 in Portugal but costs three times as much in the USA. Similarly, a bottle of domestic beer is €1.08 in Portugal but over double the price in the USA! Imported beer is not much more expensive at €1.86 in Portugal, while in the USA, it comes in at €3.13.
Eating out costs
In Portugal, eating out is a big part of the local culture. What makes it even more enjoyable is the fact that it can be very affordable. At a local pastelaria, or pastry shop, you’ll usually find a lunch menu for €5 and a toasted sandwich for about €2 or €3. At a café, lunch, including wine or coffee, usually costs between €5 and €12. A regular cappuccino will cost you €1.45 and gets cheaper the further away you move from the city centers.
For dinner options, a meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost around €9, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost €40. In terms of fast food, a McMeal or equivalent combo meal at Mcdonald’s will cost €7. The same meals in the USA would cost €16.22, €65.80, and €9.17, respectively.
Transport costs in Portugal vs USA
For the most part, transportation costs in Portugal are lower than in the USA. Some exceptions include the costs of purchasing petrol and a new car, which are generally more affordable in the USA.
However, if you prefer to use public transport, you’ll find it much cheaper in Portugal. Here, a monthly transportation pass costs €40, while a one-way ticket on local transportation costs €1.70.
School costs in Portugal vs USA
In Portugal, public school is free for all Portuguese citizens and foreign residents. However, if you choose to send your child to one of Portugal’s international schools, you will find yourself paying upwards of €6,000 each year. This cost will vary depending on the school and your child’s grade.
In comparison, a private school in the USA will cost around €9,394.60 per year.
A highlight of Portugal is that traveling around the country is quite affordable. Portugal has a great public transport system, and you spend as little as €80 a day on activities. Of course, the cost of accommodation will vary depending on where you stay and the kind of property it is.
Portugal’s healthcare system is excellent and offers both public and private healthcare options. You also shouldn’t have a problem finding doctors comfortable conversing in English, which should put you at ease if you don’t speak Portuguese. Children under 18 years and seniors over 65 receive free medical care, while everyone else is required to pay a small contribution.
While healthcare here is not completely free, it is affordable. The World Health Organisation ranked Portugal in 12th place in their assessment of healthcare systems. The World Index of Healthcare Innovation considers choice, quality, science and technology, and fiscal sustainability in their ranking and listed Portugal in 17th position in 2021.
The table below compares healthcare costs in Portugal and the USA.
Housing costs in Portugal are around 50 percent lower than in the USA. For example, a one-bedroom apartment for rent in the city center will cost €749.08 per month in Portugal and €1,603.77 in the USA. A three-bedroom apartment outside Portugal’s city center will cost €938.70 per month, while in the USA, it will cost €2,109.55 per month.
Buying property in Portugal vs the USA
Buying property in Portugal is a popular investment among expats. Real estate in a big city like Lisbon will cost around €150,000 on the outskirts, getting more expensive the closer you move to the city center. An apartment in the city center will cost around €2,904.21 per square meter, and around €1,989.99 per square meter outside the city center.
In Portugal, basic monthly utilities for an 85-square-meter apartment, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage, will cost €111.29. In the USA, this will cost around €171.27. This cost will vary based on the season and how often you use amenities like aircon and heating. In Portugal, apartments can get quite cold during winter, so make sure yours has a good heating system.
Cost of Moving to Portugal
When relocating to Portugal, it is important to consider the actual cost of moving. You can expect to incur the following costs:
Shipping expenses to transport your belongings
Plane ticket to Portugal
Rental deposit (if renting)
New phone plan
Cost of additional goods to help you get settled
These costs will vary based on the mode of shipping (such as plane or ship), the airline you choose, the area you rent in, and so on.
How to move to Portugal?
To move to Portugal from the USA, you need to have the legal right to reside in the country. Visit our Portugal Immigration Guide for more information.
Get in touch with our Portugal immigration team
Goldcrest is a local buyer’s agent situated in Portugal. We provide insightful real estate expertise and strategic advice. From sourcing to property acquisition, we help clients identify outstanding investment opportunities in some of Portugal’s finest locations.
Whether you’re a family looking to relocate or invest in land for redevelopment, our team of experts can help you find the right property without the hassle or fuss. Contact us to get the ball rolling on your Portuguese real estate investment.
As you can see, there are many benefits to moving to Portugal from the USA. The only downside you may find is dealing with Portugal’s bureaucratic processes, which many foreigners find a bit difficult to deal with. It helps to have a trusted professional who speaks the language to help you during these times.
Aside from this, you are bound to experience a greater quality of life at a more affordable cost, leaving to free to enjoy the rich culture, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking sites the country has to offer.
The overall cost of living In Portugal is 42 percent cheaper than in the USA, regarding daily expenses and housing prices.
2. How much does it cost to live in Portugal?
The average cost of living in Portugal is around €1,500 per month, depending on where in Portugal you live. Portugal is actually considered one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe and is an average of 50 percent cheaper than living in the United States.
3. Is it cheaper to live in Portugal or USA?
It is cheaper to live in Portugal, where the cost of living is an average of 50 percent lower than in the USA.
4. What are the monthly costs in Portugal?
Your monthly costs in Portugal will vary depending on the area you live in, whether you are an individual or family unit, and your lifestyle choices.
5. What are the biggest expenses in a month in Portugal?
In Portugal, your biggest expense each month will likely be your rent. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center can cost around €749.08 each month, and your monthly utilities can cost around €111.29.